At MIT's Climate CoLab, competitors battle for the ultimate prize: a sustainable future
For millions of people, Wikipedia is a quick and easy way to settle a factual disagreement or research a school paper. For Thomas Malone, professor of management at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the online, crowd-sourced encyclopedia is an inspiration.
"It's now possible to harness the collective intelligence of thousands of people all over the world at a scale and with a degree of collaboration that was never possible before," Malone said. "We decided to basically crowd-source the problem of what to do about global climate change."
The result is MIT's Climate CoLab, a collaborative online community centered around a series of annual contests that seek out promising ideas for fighting climate change. Right now, 15 contests are active on the site, with more to come, Malone said.
Tapping the general population to generate ideas, gather information, and solve sticky problems is not a new concept. The fundamental principle behind Wikipedia, it has also inspired any number of open source software projects. The idea is simple: More people working on a challenge translates into more ideas, better ideas, and more diverse ideas, said Christian Terwiesch, professor of operations and information management at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania